116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Erik Spaw, a Cedar Rapids Water Division employee, still is missing nearly two months after his fleet truck was found submerged in the Cedar River.
Spaw was reported missing on Saturday, May 7, when his co-workers noticed he hadn’t returned to the J Avenue Water Treatment Plant, where his personal car was parked. He had spent Friday night working a shift at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant at 7807 Ellis Rd. NW.
The Utilities and Fleets department tracked the last known location of Spaw’s assigned fleet vehicle to near Ellis Road NW, and search crews discovered the truck submerged in the Cedar River about a mile upstream from the Edgewood River bridge. When the truck was brought to shore there were no occupants inside.
Cedar Rapids Fire Department crews searched the river for several days, using tracking dogs and drag lines pulled behind search boats, to try to find Spaw, who had worked for the city for more than 20 years.
Spaw’s mother, Karen Spaw, said her son has Type 1 diabetes and had been struggling to regulate his blood sugar and insulin intake. She said she suspects he passed out due to low blood sugar while driving, causing him to drive into the river.
What’s happened since
Cedar Rapids Fire Capt. Josh Jensen said even though the fire department isn’t searching daily anymore, crews still are sent out periodically to comb the area of the river where they believe Spaw’s body would be if drowned.
“We have done a lot of work in trying to locate that gentleman,” Jensen said.
Jensen said he’s surprised that Spaw hasn’t been found yet, because if he did drown in the river his body should have floated to the top after a few days due to decomposition.
“Why that has not happened is just beyond me. It’s a real head-scratcher. It’s frustrating,” Jensen said. “In all reality, we’re starting into the open water season … and there’s a lot of people out recreating, a lot of people out fishing. Historically speaking, regardless of whether it’s Cedar Rapids or any other city, the people that find drown victims are typically recreaters.”
Spaw’s family is also working to try to find him. Bronica Wilson, Spaw’s sister-in-law, said the family used money raised from a GoFundMe page to hire a couple of divers from Minnesota to spend a day searching the river. Wilson said the conditions were not ideal on the day that the divers came down to search, but the family still has money left over from the fundraiser and is hoping to do another search in the future.
The divers charged $900 for the search, which they conducted on June 13. Spaw’s family decided to donate another $900, of the $6,045 raised in the GoFundMe, to go toward the next family who needs a search done but doesn’t have the funds to pay for it.
Wilson also has been handing out fliers with a picture of Spaw taken from footage from the water department’s cameras, showing what Spaw was wearing the night he disappeared.
Wilson said she doesn’t know how much the fliers will actually help, but it gives her hope to know that she’s doing something.
“If you don’t try, you won’t be able to at least tell yourself that you’re trying,” Wilson said. “I can’t wait. I’ve got to participate and do what I can.”
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